There have been question marks beginning to crop up quite often with Roberto Firmino and his recent performance levels for Liverpool in recent weeks.
The Brazilian striker is undoubtedly one of the most uniquely gifted players in world football yet there comes a time when an absence of form warrants a cause for action.
It has been well documented that Firmino’s goal output is not at the level that traditionally befits a Premier League-winning team – he has just one goal in his last 20 Premier League matches.
However, as we all know, Firmino’s game is far more complex than simply putting the ball into the back of the net. He is the bridge that connects midfield to attack and it’s his off-the-ball qualities that have become so integral to the way Liverpool play.
It often goes unnoticed just how much work-rate Firmino consistently delivers for his team time-and-time again. Even when defending set-pieces, he often places himself in the midst of the action to help his team prevent a goalscoring opportunity.
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Last season, Firmino’s aerial duels read winning 29 and losing 74, clocking up an average of 28.2 per cent. This may be considered low but the fact that the 29-year-old is constantly looking to win the ball and retrieve possession back for his team suggests that Klopp notices how important he is to the team when Liverpool do not have the ball.
After all, the boss has lauded his irreplaceable No.9 as ‘world-class’ on countless occasions.
There is no questioning that Firmino is currently struggling at this present moment. Against Ajax in midweek, he only touched the ball on two occasions and failed to contribute one key pass, tackle, interception or clearance against the Eredivisie champions.
It’s about mentality now for Firmino – who cost the Reds £29 million in 2015 [BBC] – and having the drive and determination to power through this dip in form.
Diogo Jota’s arrival makes his situation more difficult, while at the same time, he should respond strongly, as he did after Takumi Minamino was brought into provide competition in January.
The best-case scenario is that Jota and Minamino both make an impact in the coming weeks, and subsequently, Firmino raises his game to be even better than two of Liverpool’s latest attacking additions in the transfer market. This is what Klopp and his coaching staff want.
Tactical switch could help
The shift in formation towards a 4-2-3-1 could benefit Firmino.
It opens up more of an attacking impetus from the front, which could enable more space and opportunities for Firmino to work with.
Considering he has been utilised more than any other player since Klopp arrived at the club in 2015, his chance of shining helps because he will be less isolated upfront, and so he has a better chance to rediscover some form.
Firmino played a lot of football last season and his recent struggle is likely a result of a mental and physical burnout.
What he can’t afford is to get anxious about his own lack of goals, and let that affect his game where he starts trying almost too hard, which has seen him snatch at shots on a few occasions this season.
Firmino just needs to trust in his own ability and believe in himself again, and he will soon be back scoring goals again.
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